Driverless village vehicle showcases innovations ahead

IT MIGHT have been hard to imagine in years past that it was really possible, but now we are past dreaming about it, even talking about; driverless vehicles are here.

Yesterday, residents of the Canberra's Kangara Waters IRT village got to view and then ride in the Pod Zero. It's an electric, people transport vehicle which will use a mapped-out course around the village to help move residents seamlessly around the venue.

During its test run the vehicle was controlled by a person using a digital display. "They are going map the road for the vehicle to travel on," village resident Allan Casey, 74, said. "Residents will be able to book it using a smart phone when they wish to travel around the village.

Both Allan and his wife, Christine, rode in the Pod Zero.

"I found it amazing as it's going to afford those residents that are partially immobilised that use a walking frame, to travel around the village from their apartments or villa to the community centre and café," Allan said.

"It will afford them the opportunity to talk to people while they are going from point A to point B and with people they may not have originally met in the village, that are in one end of the village as opposed to the opposite end."

THE FUTURE IS HERE: LASA CEO Sean Rooney, Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt AM and Kangara Waters residents Allan and Christine Casey.
THE FUTURE IS HERE: LASA CEO Sean Rooney, Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt AM and Kangara Waters residents Allan and Christine Casey.

Residents will be able to travel whenever they wish. The vehicle also has the capacity to carry someone in a wheelchair.

With fuel prices in Canberra are about $1.49 for unleaded petrol, Allan is very keen to see the use of electric cars, at least within the village.

"Visitors will be able to park their car and travel by the electric vehicle to village destinations," Allan added.

Allan's wife Christine, 72, says she never envisaged such a vehicle. Allan says otherwise. "We have to get electric vehicles," Allan said. "Oil is going to run out one day."

The Pod Zero will return to Kangara Waters in May to start full operation in the village.

The driverless vehicle was used to complement the launch by Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt AM of the Federal Government's contribution of $400,000 to the innovAGEING program which is a collaborative partnership with Leading Age Services Australia. It is designed to support innovation across Australia's burgeoning aged care services industry.

"innovAGEING will establish a national network for the aged care services industry, bringing together progressive thinkers and practitioners," Mr Wyatt said.

"Innovative approaches are fundamental to providing safe, quality, sustainable care in the long term."

The project is designed to have a strong digital presence including a website and extensive social media linkages.

"With predictions Australia will need almost one million aged care staff by 2050, growth and innovation in this sector are fundamentally linked," Mr Wyatt said.

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